Issue: Revolution in Ukraine

Background on Ukraine

  • Large state of the former Soviet Union, approximately 46 million people, capital is Kiev, it is not currently a member of the European Union (EU)
  • Lots of natural resources, very important to Russia because the bulk of Russia’s natural gas pipelines to Europe run through Ukraine
  • The eastern half (bordering Russia) is largely sympathetic toward Russia, the western half leans more toward the European Union
  • The last 10 years of elections have been wrought with controversy and allegations of election rigging and corruption in government

What happened recently?

  • In late 2013 the economy was badly stagnating and protests began when President Yanukovych (under pressure from Russia) declined an EU trade deal in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia.  To many Ukrainians, this was seen as selling out to the Russians and was a microcosm of the broader authoritarian tendencies and corruption from the Yanukovych administration
  •  In January, as the protests continued to grow, Yanukovych signed a series of anti-protest laws that severely restricted free speech and the media.  When protests and demonstrations grew even greater as a result of the new laws, police crackdowns started becoming more violent
  • Yanukovych rapidly lost the support of the Ukrainian Parliament

What is happening now?

  • In the face of the massive protests and loss of support (even among many in his own party), Pres. Yanukovych left Kiev and the protestors took control.  The Ukrainian Parliament voted to remove him from office and declared new presidential elections in May
  • Ukraine opposition leader (and former Prime Minister) Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and is now a de facto leader of the protesters

Moving forward

  • Much of what will be decided is whether Ukraine will move toward a more EU style government concerning trade and economics.  Russian President Putin wants to retain his considerable influence in Ukraine and will undoubtedly (along with Russian-leaning Parliament members and citizens, primarily in the east) work to prevent any future free-trade deals with the EU

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